International Ice Hockey Federation

The return of Belarus

The return of Belarus

Return to 2016 World Juniors after eight years

Published 19.12.2014 18:53 GMT+2 | Author Henrik Manninen
The return of Belarus
Belarusian forwards Vyacheslav Fadeyev and Dmitri Ambrozheichik put pressure on the opponent’s net in the deciding game for promotion against Norway. Photo: Luca Stefani
An eight-year long wait is over for Belarus, which will be back competing at the top junior level again next year at the World Junior Championship in Helsinki.

The Belarusians won the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A in Asiago, Italy after already four out of five games.

Four wins out of a possible four steered Belarus into an unassailable lead at the top of the table ahead of the final round of games as they celebrate a return to the top division at the U20 level for the first time since 2007.

The victory in Asiago also makes it third time lucky for head coach Pavel Perepekhin at this level as he previously guided Belarus to silver two years ago and to third spot in Sanok, Poland, last year.

"This year there were no exceptional leading players on the team, so we managed to win this tournament as a team. And as it has been very, very long since we played in the top division we are very happy now," said Perepekhin following his team's 5-1 victory over Norway during Day 4 which saw them clinch gold and seal a place at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship played in Helsinki, Finland.

A strong first period display paved the way to victory over Slovenia (6-1) in their opening game, before three power-play goals defeated plucky hosts Italy (4-2). Belarus then faced their sternest test during day three when edging neighbours Latvia 2-1.

A first period goal by Alexei Shantyka on a 5-on-3 had opened the scoring for Belarus, but failing to capitalize on a strong second-period display, which saw Belarus win the shots 14-3, appeared to be costly when Rudolfs Maslovskis equalized for Latvia at 6:52 of the third period. But instead of wilting under pressure, this crop of Belarusian players replied with aplomb. Artur Buinitski's goal with the man advantage with 2:32 left on the clock saw Belarus grind out a win thanks to a disciplined display which pleased their head coach.

"We still have a lot to work on, but during this tournament I have been very pleased with both our penalty kill and our power play which won us the game against Latvia," said Perepekhin.

It was a recipe for success which stood Belarus in good stead as Norway came calling. The newly relegated Scandinavians had arrived to Asiago as pre-tournament favourites and opened the tournament with all guns blazing. Victories against Italy (3-0) and Austria (9-5) had seen Norway's captain Ludvig Hoff score eight points. But the magic appeared to have been lost going into their third game as penalty shots were required to overcome Slovenia and against Belarus the game was effectively over already after the first frame.

After a nervy start with plenty at stake, Belarus displayed an efficient penalty kill before Vyacheslav Fadeyev broke the deadlock when rounding Fredrik Gronstrand's net to hit home 1-0 after 13:10. Fadeyev needed another two-and-half minutes before doubling his and Belarus's tally as he was picked out following a fine power play link-up involving Dmitri Ambrozheichik and Buinitski. With 1:17 left of the period influential Ambrozheichik found Buinitski, who buried the puck behind Norway's netminder Gronstrand as Belarus's first line had hit three unanswered goals in the first frame.

"During both intermissions I told the players that we are not winning and that we are starting a new twenty minute period where our biggest task for each line was not to concede a goal," said Perepekhin.

But the expected Norwegian fightback never materialized and instead it was plain sail for Belarus. Vladislav Misnikov added a fourth midway through the game which also saw Gronstrand being pulled and replaced by Theodor Hestnes.

17-year-old prospect Dmitri Buinitski, one of four players on the current Belarus roster also eligible for next year, added further gloss to the scoreline with Belarus's fifth of the evening early in the final frame, before Ole Petter Overgaard hit home Norway's sole marker with 5:33 left in the game.

Following the celebrations involving the Belarusian players, the upbeat mood continued inside the PalaOdegar in Asiago on game day four as newcomers and hosts Italy ensured survival thanks to a fine 4-2 upset against Latvia. A win which also sent Slovenia down to Division I Group B after they earlier had lost 7-3 against Austria.

Belarus, which previously featured regularly in the top division at U20 level with appearances in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007, can now look forward to what is to come as they look to establish themselves at the very highest level of junior hockey.

"This result will mean that even more emphasis will be put on developing youth hockey in the country, and the victory today can be a huge motivation for the younger players who will have a chance to be a part of the championship next year," said Perepekhin, who is carefully upbeat of his team's chances for next year.

"If we start working hard with the team of players born 1996 and younger as of tomorrow anything is possible. We still have time to get better and we need to improve in every single component of the game if we look to be having good results in Finland," Perepekhin said.

Click here for scores and stats from the Division I Group A.


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